STEM Education News
In This Issue:
- PISA RESULTS: U.S. Slips in International Reading, Science, and Mathematics Rankings According to Latest Results from Programme for International Student Assessment
- “Code.org” Launches Nationwide Initiative
- ED Announces Highest-Rated Applications for i3 2013 Competition
- House Education and Workforce Committee Hosts Hearing On CTE
- A Personal Reflection on Why Geography Matters
- Algebra: Not ‘If’ but ‘When’
U.S. Slips in International Reading, Science, and Mathematics Rankings According to Latest Results from Programme for International Student Assessment
(Straight A’s, 12/3/13) – Released December 3, the results of the 2012 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) show that American 15-year-olds ranked 17th in reading, 20th in science, and 27th in mathematics among the 34 countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD).1 Those rankings are lower than in the previous PISA given in 2009 when the United States ranked fourteenth in reading, 17th in science, and 25th in mathematics.
Like traditional tests, PISA, which consists of multiple-choice and open-ended questions, tests students on what they have learned, but it goes one step further by also asking students to extrapolate what they have learned and apply that knowledge in unfamiliar settings, both in and outside of school. Full article
“Code.org” Launches Nationwide Initiative
By Florentia Spires (’13-’14 Albert Einstein Fellow)
In the wake of the 2012 PISA score results released, it is echoed once again that students need a deeper learning and understanding in meeting higher academic standards. Today many students own some type of technology gadget whether it’s a computer, tablet, or smart phone. However, they are unaware of the deeper learning and thinking about how it works. With the emphasis of developing 21st Century Skills and STEM education, it is a misfortune that only ten percent of school age students in the U.S. learn computer science basic programming, which can help increase their problem solving skills. Only 4 percent of those students are female and three percent are students of color. By the year 2020, there will be 1.4 million computing jobs to fill, but there are only 400,000 students studying computer science for these jobs. It is clear that something different must be done to meet the nation’s ambitious goal in computer science.
During Computer Science Education Week of
December 9-15, Code.org is launching the Hour of Code with a goal to introduce 10,000 K-12 students to basic computer science programming concepts. Full article
ED Announces Highest-Rated Applications for i3 2013 Competition
The Department of Education (ED) recently announced the 25 highest-rated-applications (HRAs) in the fourth round of the Investing in Innovation (i3) competition. These HRAs will receive more than $135 million to “expand innovative practices designed to improve student achievement,” according to an ED press release. In order to receive federal funding, the HRAs must secure matching funds by December 11, 2013.
Of the 25 HRAs, 18 are in the “Development” category and seven are in the “Validation” category; notably, there are no potential grantees for the “Scale-up” category. “The fourth round of the i3 competition continues to demonstrate that there are organizations across the country that are eager to implement a wide range of innovative and effective practices to improve educational outcomes for students,” said Acting Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement Nadya Chinoy Dabby. “Each year, we are able to grow the portfolio of solutions and the body of evidence that supports these practices.” More information, including a list of the 25 HRAs, can be found here.
House Education and Workforce Committee Hosts Hearing On CTE
On November 19, the House Education and the Workforce Committee held a hearing on “Preparing Today’s Students for Tomorrow’s Jobs: Improving the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act.” Chairman John Kline (R-MN) expressed dismay at the morning announcement made by President Obama regarding a new competitive grant program aimed at career and technical education (CTE) stating that “It will only further muddle the system at a time when we need to make smart, structural reforms to improve CTE programs under the Perkins Act,” but, he conceded, that the President’s proposal for CTE “offers a solid starting point for bipartisan negotiations, with an emphasis on industry coordination and state involvement in the development of CTE programs.” Full article
A Personal Reflection on Why Geography Matters
By David Thesenga (’13-’14 Albert Einstein Fellow)
As a Pacific Northwestener growing up among the dense fir forests and the soaring Cascade mountain range, I watched the world change around me. At 8:32 a.m. on May 18, 1980, Mt. St. Helens blew itself apart and the northern flank of the mountain slid into Spirit Lake in what is now recognized as the largest debris avalanche in recorded history. The ensuing images of the eruption and destruction showed how drastically the landscape around Mt. St. Helens changed. But they could not show the way Pacific Northwesterners’ view of their mountains had also been significantly altered: these were volcanoes and they were active. Full article
Member Spotlight: NCTM
Algebra: Not ‘If’ but ‘When’
One of the questions I am frequently asked by teachers, parents, and reporters is, “When should students take algebra?”
Let’s assume that we’re talking about a college preparatory algebra 1 course. The content and instruction must be designed to develop both conceptual and procedural understanding. For students to be considered successful in first-year algebra, the expectation must be that reasoning and making sense will be priorities of both teaching and learning.
Algebra has often been referred to as a “gatekeeper” to higher learning—both in mathematics and in other fields. Research shows that students who complete a mathematics course beyond the level of algebra 2 are more than twice as likely to pursue and complete a postsecondary degree. Students who don’t do well in algebra compromise their career options, especially in STEM fields. The question is no longer if students should take algebra but rather when students should take algebra. Full article